Our people like to sensationalise and they like to consume bite-size pieces of information. They rarely engage in extensive reading. Because of this, they are therefore susceptible to deception. Some like hear-says “magatwe” Ga tweng? It was therefore no surprise that the Venson-Moitoi judgement was converted to Facebook one-liners for easy consumption for those who could not read the eight paged judgement.
Much of what was shared on Facebook and general social media was not what the three judges: Rannowane (Chief Justice), Judge Tafa and Judge Radijeng actually said in their judgement. Lies were peddled that the three judges had come to a most shocking conclusion in their judgement that having a long career in the public service Mma Venson-Moitoi was now not a Motswana. This was the lie that was spread across social media. Private radio stations also picked on the lie and spread it. People called in and expressed how unfortunate the judgement that denied Mma Venson-Moitoi her citizenship was. No one corrected the misinformation. The lie therefore matched from one person to another draped in false clothes of verity. No one dared say that the High Court never said that Mma Venson-Moitoi is not an indigenous Motswana. So, in this column we wish to state exactly what the judgement says and means. We will make reference and quote the judgement itself, hopefully to bring some clarity to this matter. First, what were some of the issues that Mma Venson-Moitoi had brought before the court? Amongst others she argued the following:
- She complained that the BDP lacked detailed rules governing the conduct of the election of the President of the party.
- She therefore wanted an independent body to be established for running of the elections and all matters incidental to such elections.
- She wanted a voters’ roll to be made available for inspection not less than seven days before the day of the election.
- She wanted the ballot papers for the election to be printed and serialized for the Presidential election.
- She wanted polling agents and observers to be allowed at all stages of voting and counting.
- She wanted polling and counting to be conducted in full view of observers and that lockable and transparent ballot boxes be used.
- She wanted proper ballot tally to be conducted before the poll and that at the end of the poll a reconciliation be done vis a vis the initial poll count.
- She wanted that after the ballot boxes were reconciled, the candidates’ name on each ballot paper should be read out.
- Finally, she wanted that structures whose term had expired should not be allowed to vote at the elective congress.
Points 2 to 9 above constituted the rules governing the conduct of the elections of the President which she wanted instituted.
Mma Venson-Moitoi’s second major complaint was that she did not agree with the Secretary General of the party that the councillors who sponsored her nomination were not delegates.
The third major point before the court was that the matter was urgent and therefore she asked the court to stop the elective congress or alternatively be postponed to a later date. She therefore wanted the court to declare all councillors delegates.
Let us therefore return to the judgement. The BDP lawyers argued that Mma Venson-Moitoi doesn’t have locus standi (the right or capacity to bring an action or to appear in court). They argued that she failed to establish in her founding affidavit that she qualifies to be the President of the Republic of Botswana which is a condition precedent to being President of the Botswana Democratic Party in terms of article 29.3.3 of the constitution of the BDP. The BDP lawyers argued that for one to qualify to be President of the Republic of Botswana, one must in terms of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana (section 33(1)) be a citizen of Botswana by birth or by descent; they should be over the age of 30 years of age and qualify to be elected member of the National Assembly. The court therefore felt that Mma Venson-Moitoi had failed in her founding papers to disclose whether she was “a citizen of Botswana by birth or by descent”. To quote the judgement: “Put bluntly, the Applicant has failed to prove that she is a Botswana citizen by birth or descent and that she thus qualifies to be President of the Republic of Botswana in terms of section 33 afore-noted. The latter as submitted by the Respondent is a precondition to qualification to be President of Respondent.” The three judges continued: “After careful consideration on the issue, we are satisfied that there is considerable merit to this contention and the point in limine is upheld. The effect is that on this score alone, the application stands to be dismissed.” Se ke sone se se jeleng Mma Venson-Moitoi wa Modimo. Katlholo ga e ise e re Mma Venson-Moitoi ga se Motswana. Katlholo ya re Mma Venson-Moitoi o reteletswe ke go baya lekgotla pele dipampiri tse di supang gore ke Motswana jang, jaaka molaomotheo wa lefatshe la Botswana o tlhalosa. Katlholo ya re: Kwa ntle ga go tla ka bosupi jwa gore Mma Venson-Moitioi ke Motswana jang, lekgotla ga le na bosupi jwa gore a Mma Venson-Moitoi o emetse ditlhopho tsa BDP ka fa molaong e bile o na le tshwanelo ya go ema fa pele ga lekgotla a ipitsa ntlhopheng. Ka jalo lekgotla le tsere tshwetso ya go tsholola kgang ya ga Mma Venson-Moitoi kwa ntle ga go lebelela dintlha tse dingwe tsa kgang ka gore ene Mma Venson-Moitoi o tsile lekgotleng a se na bosupi jo bo mo supang fa a ka nna tautona wa lefatshe la Botswana. Ka mafoko a mangwe lekgotla la re: “Aitsane Mma Venson-Moitoi o ijesitse kgang ka dipampiri tsa gago ga di mmogo. Ke wena o ka bong o tsisitse bosupi jwa pulamadibogo jwa gore o Motswana jang. Jaanong o diatla fela. O raya gore rona re go thuse jang?” Kgang e bo e tshololwa.
Kgang ya gore motho ke Motswana jang e tlhokwa ke molaomotheo wa lefatshe la Botswana mo mongweng le mongwe yo o gwetlhang botautona jwa lefatshe. Se ke ka gore Motswana wa dipampiri ga a ka ke a gwetlha botautona jwa lefatshe la Botswana.
A re weleng batho betsho. Lekgotla ga le ise le re Mma Venson-Moitoi ga se Motswana wa sekei. La re Mma Venson-Moitoi o paletswe ke go tsisa dipampiri tse di supang gore ke Motswana jang. Ke ene a paletsweng ke go tsisa dipampiri tseo, e seng ope gape. She simply lost on a technicality. So it is false to claim that the court said Mma Vesnon-Moitoi is not a Motswana and that she can’t run for the BDP presidency because of who her father is. Seo ke maaka a Tege!